John Peel famously once said, “Science will almost certainly never come up with anything as wonderful as the electric guitar” – so for our first competition, we asked you to explore all things Electric.
Whether it was an ode to your favourite toaster, musings on that crackling feeling in the air when something exciting is going to happen, or another interpretation entirely, we wanted to read about what Electric means and evokes for you.
The contest was open to poetry (up to 40 lines) and short fiction (up to 750 words), and was judged in two categories: 17 and under, and 18+.
Winner: Culture by Lily Hibbert
It sparks through my veins,
A current flowing through my body
Synapses responding with every connection
Every part of my life consumed
Transformed from what it was previously
The music lilts like a Summer’s day
A different dance that ripples through every part of me,
As though I am one wave
In this sea of a world
Flowing and ebbing to the rhythm
that I find within other’s
a pulse within each of us that cannot be matched by anything else
how what I think in a pinprick of a moment
Is also a thought reflected in another language
The only difference in the word’s on the page
curling and intertwining in different directions
yet the intention the same
It’s the diverse tastes on my tongue,
different and crackling with rich electricity found in the air
It’s the oxygen I breathe
It’s the countries I see
Runner Up: Electric by Alex Rodger
The power we hold
The power we control
The power we,
It rustles in the autumn leaves
It blows through the branches of towering trees
Like the wind meandering through the air;
Through the atmosphere
As it twists and turns through every living thing.
It leaps across the land
It dives into the bottomless oceans
It flies through the duck egg-blue sky
It bounces across the vast, smiling clouds
That our wonderful world holds dear.
It’s the lion we tame
It’s the sea we don’t fear to sail through
It’s the power we manipulate
Like a hypnotising snake
As we use it to build up mankind.
It’s our heart hammering
Against our chest.
It’s our head going dreary
When we see it shining plain
The power we hold
The power we control
The power that we,
Understand, cherish and love
Winner: Effects of an untouched meter key. by Siobhan McCluskey
‘Mum, the electric’s gone again.’
That sentence raises hairs.
The little key and meter pair, untouched, under the stairs.
There is electricity in this house
but there is no inspiring heat,
the kind you get when minds meet,
moulding, shaping, growing, learning, knowing.
For this place.
It is hot tears and shame,
bare walls in need of paint
and candles burnt down to the wick.
Mum’s tears are thick, as her grip on the bottle tightens.
The first time the electricity went, it was exciting.
But now I know there’s monsters in this dark house,
I am frightened.
The three of us, huddled in one room, on one bed,
but we are not close.
This darkness drives a wedge,
breeds resentment and contempt.
The electricity we have is rage, burning hot, and here to stay,
the flame illuminating, hatred and ashtrays.
The only sound is glass bottles and burning
as it makes its way up cigarette papers
until it’s right down to her lips.
We have no electricity, for this?
Smells too potent for a bedtime kiss.
How can an empty, dark room feel so full?
How can the meter under the stairs read zero and this be what she chooses to do?
‘Mum, the electric’s gone, again.’
‘Best not to speak of this at school.’
No need to have said.
We already knew.
Runner Up: Electric by Nick Walker
The door-click behind him was like the hammer of a revolver hitting an empty chamber; he was all in now. Nine o’clock curfew had passed, the street was deserted. This part of London used to be called Docklands, a magnet for upwardly aspirational young professionals willing to trade off frightening mortgage payments against the buzz of being there, when the City was the worlds’ bank, there was an endless supply of capital to finance loans which never went bad. He had been there, but had locked away the memories- the Advice was not to remember the Beforeworld and when he had tried once the pain was searing, red and angry, unbearable.
There was a camera one hundred metres up the road on the wall above the Recharging Centre; he’d secretly tried to assess it the previous day whilst standing in the queue for a zap-up. Range 50 metres, infra-red so no point trying to hug the shadows, and probably latest gen with biometric recognition AI and motion sensors. His plan was to run as fast as possible in plain sight and disappear down the warren of side streets which were camera-free, then circle around and go back past the camera again before setting off in another direction. He hoped this would fool the AI into predicting he had gone home again- it wasn’t logical to go straight past a camera twice if you were trying to escape attention. By the time a patrol arrived to investigate he could be somewhere else, and he had stones in his pocket to put in his shoe- changing his gait to trick the recognition sensors on the next camera. With luck the surveillance AI would refer for an Operator review and that might just give him the time he needed.
He reached in his coat pocket, found the address which he’d scrawled onto the scrap of paper. It was in Southwark, past what used to be Borough Market, a short walk or a lifetime away. In winter it would be impossible because of the need to cross London Bridge with its multiple cameras and patrols, but at this time of year the Thames was dry, and he knew a way across which avoided the searchlights and sucking mud. Now or never- a deep breath, and he was off.
Forty-two minutes later he hauled himself up the South Bank. Blinding searchlights criss-crossed the landscape, picking out the gothic lines of Southwark Cathedral. Relaxing slightly- there were fewer cameras south of the river- he started to walk quickly away from the exposed bank, crossing the street back into darkness. His thoughts turned to the transaction to come. He knew the risks had heard of people being lured somewhere, then robbed and beaten, or worse. But he was desperate.
Another fifteen minutes and he turned in to the road on the address. Just an ordinary residential street, with grubby shutters covering dark windows. His Air Max’s gave off a dull thud as he strode purposefully, eyes straining for the right number through the gloom. Was that the muffled sound of a dog barking- dogs were restricted to Peacekeeping duties. Maybe he imagined it. Then, there it was- absolutely nothing unusual about the 1980’s brick fronted apartment, and he guessed this was the point. He stopped, checked there were no witnesses, and knocked.
The door opened a crack. No lights on. A smell of cigarette smoke and body odour, and a gruff cockney accent- “what?”. He handed over the note and the pack of black market mince as he been told to do. It was most likely minced dog or cat rather than the beef they’d asked for, but what the hell did they expect? The hand which took the note was bore a black Offender Barcode. The door closed and there was silence for a full minute, then- opened again and a brown paper bag was thrust into his hand. No further words were exchanged, and after he had checked the content he set off at pace for the return journey.
It was past midnight as he closed the door to his flat. There was no sign of trouble- at least no forced entry damage- but he wouldn’t really know until the morning. He opened the bag and pulled out the charger- a good one, latest gen Bluetooth – it would feed from the Recharging Centre, and he would never be offline. Possession punishable by Labour Camp time, since
electricity was rationed. The phone sprang to life.